7th October 2001
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  • A selfless professional
  • Greatness out of nothing
  • A selfless professional

    Gamini Abeyawickrema

    Gamini Abeyawickrema is no more. When I heard the trembling voice of Senhelatha informing me of the tragedy that befell her brother, the thought overwhelmed me that all goodness and sanity were being smashed to smithereens. With his death, the feeling that goodness is becoming obscured by the forces of evil is strengthened.

    Otherwise, how could karma or God drive Gamini to death _ a man who practised the essence of goodness, fought for justice as a lawyer even at the peril of his practice, did whatever he could to prevent vultures from usurping the wealth of a minor client and protected the inheritance of a deceased client whose last will had been forged to give credence to an illegal transaction. 

    The evil that surrounds us and his attitude of being more concerned with the welfare of his clients and their future than his family and his children, may have had some effect on his thoughts of life and death.

    These were qualities that are rare and not taught in law schools. 

    This extraordinary but exalted behaviour in a world, where the culture of aggrandizement over-rides all other norms, may have made him a misfit. 

    He may have thought and silently suffered the pain and anguish of a man living the life of a saint, not garbed in robes but living amongst us, practising the profession of law and living a mundane life with a wife and two children. Gamini was an exemplary man, taciturn, but with a deep sense of piety under his rough exterior.

    It is almost unbelievable that Gamini is no more. The whole episode is like the tragedy that civilization is facing. 

    History is repeating itself. Civilized people are constantly threatened by barbarians and unfortunately history shows that barbarism is the winner. Your death is a defeat for human dignity, truth and the unselfish love you personified as a friend, as a husband, as a father, and last but not least as a true professional.

    Hemantha Warnakulasuriya

    Greatness out of nothing

    Augustus Octavius Wirasingha

    Dear Gusty, it is hard to believe that it is four years since you bade farewell to this earthly world of ours and went to take your place with the saints in heaven. It was early in the morning on May 1, 1997, lying on your bed in a room at Asiri Hospital, with your loving and beloved only daughter Marlene and her close friend Marie by your bedside, that you breathed your last. You bade farewell to this world in the same way as you had lived. 

    Conscious to the last, you were there, like an experienced war veteran, who had weathered many a crisis in life, facing the final battle of your life, with stoic courage, never flinching or drawing back. 

    Truly has it been said that old soldiers never die, they just fade away. You certainly faded away from our presence, but you never died in our hearts and especially in our memories. Those thoughts still remain and we can say that their fragrance shall ever abide among us and shall never die. There was never a semblance of fear or trepidation on your part. You breathed your last in the same way as you had lived; not bitter or unhappy about life. 

    Certainly, as a devout Catholic you would have always remembered the Lord's promise that He was going before you to prepare a place for you in His Father's house (John 14:2). This was how it had to be. 

    You had fought the good fight, you had run the race of your life, and now it was time to receive your just reward from the hands of your Maker himself. 

    On your birthday, October 7, I recall the words of Jesus who said: "...he who is least among you all is the one who is great (Luke 9:48)." He who wants to be great, must choose to be first a nobody. 

    A product of St. Peter's College, Colombo, you excelled in your studies and as I can recall, became one of the first civil servants your alma mater had produced. However, just like your Maker had said, you were living out your greatness by serving humanity in whatever way you could; be it in giving some valuable advice, be it in finding employment for the troubled breadwinner of a family or be it in being just there to assure a person of your support. 

    Born of humble beginnings, you always remembered your past and never lost the common touch. Perhaps you were inspired by the advice given by Rudyard Kipling in his well known poem "If":

    "If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
    And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!"

    Those who knew you well would, I am sure, bear witness to the fact that in the way you got around you never displayed your intelligence. But still all those who came in contact with you were touched by your learning. Neither foes nor loving friends were able to hurt you, because being aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you were humble enough to acknowledge that you did not know and magnanimous enough to give credit to anyone who deserved it. 

    Gusty, you may have departed from our midst, but you still remain alive especially when we either recall your pithy statements full of wisdom and experience or when we just remember you and the company that we enjoyed together. You have also left behind your daughter Marlene, who in her own unique way continues your work of serving humanity. Thank you, dear Gusty for all you were to me and to those who came in contact with you and who were privileged to drink deeply from the waters of your wisdom and experience.

    G. Gomis

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